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Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Voting and the “Anxious Single Female”

By Holly Buchanan
January 3rd, 2008

Hillary, married and anxious...What do women care about? What issues are at the forefront of their lives? What are their deepest passions? What are their greatest fears? These are questions I ask almost every day in my marketing to women research. And lately, for good reason, I’ve been looking at the political world to see what can be learned about the answers to these questions. With the possibility of electing the first female president in the U.S., there’s all sorts of talk about what role women voters will play in this year’s election.

What do the political pollsters have to say about these women voters? We know how much the political world loves to label women voters (among others). We have them to thank for such stereotypes as the “Soccer Mom.” Well, the world of politics has a new, flattering stereotype for women: The “Anxious Single Female.” There is even the “Sex and the City” voter. No, I’m not kidding. Here’s what Morra Aarons-Mele has to say at The Huffington Post:

Want a sure-fire way to keep women away from the polls? How about calling large groups of them “single and anxious”?

I opened a blog post yesterday to the lede: “It’s almost official. Single women are poised to be the “Security Mom” or “Soccer Mom” of the 2008 election. They even have their own easy to remember moniker: the “Single Anxious Female.”

If you follow politics, you’ve no doubt heard that unmarried women represent a holy grail of voters: 50 million or so likely Democrats that year after year, flirt with voting and political activism, but don’t commit. This cycle, they’re dubbed the “Sex and the City voters.” To woo these women, the establishment provides celebrities, and catchy spots laced with sexual innuendo–ooh, winking about their first time! Voting, that is.

ROFLMAO! Ha-ha-ha!!! You guys are killing me. Hang on, I just need a minute to collect myself.

(Sigh.) Okay, I’m alright.

[Long pause.]

HA-HA-HA! Okay… Really, I’m alright. I’ve got it under control now. Wow, you simply cannot make this stuff up. I share this with you because there’s actually something important to be learned here. If you’re a marketer, single women absolutely must be on your radar.

Women’s Voices. Women Vote shares these statistics:

Women on their own make up the largest bloc of non-voters in the nation, and are the largest and fastest growing demographic in America today. In fact, almost half of all women in the country are on their own. A front-page New York Times story last week, based on an analysis of new census figures, confirmed that single households are now the national majority. According to the story, the potential social and economic implications are “profound.”

There’s only one problem here: The “non-voters” information. Margie Omera at has data that refutes this claim and has some strong opinions about the validity of the “anxious single female” stereotype.

If you look specifically at single, never-married adults, this pattern holds. A majority of single women voted in 2004 (52%), compared to fewer single men (43%). This is even true with 18 to 24 year-olds (47% of single women in that group vote, compared to 40% of single men).

First, let’s use the data correctly. Women vote at a higher rate than men. Unmarried women, however defined, vote at a higher rate than unmarried men. And this pattern holds across age groups. Second, it does not further the cause to allow women to be called anxious, show-offs, bubbly, stupid, or confused. These characterizations only perpetuate stereotypes about women, rather than work to improve our status.

(Margie is referring to this CNN piece.)

There’s a HUGE opportunity here to do some quality research and find out what these women really do care about. Enough with the stereotypical labels. As Morra Aarons-Mele says in her post:

So I guess single men are too busy playing Guitar Hero to vote. How come they don’t have a stereotypical name to describe their supposed wont at the polls?

My guess is the smart politicians are looking at this powerful voting block of single females and doing some serious research to find out who they are, what they care about, and how to deliver it to them through their candidate. There’s an unprecedented opportunity here for some amazing learning and insight. I hope we can break through the stereotypes and gain understanding that will help not only politicians, but marketers in general.

[Editor's Note: Holly Buchanan is co-author of The Soccer Mom Myth: Today's Female Customer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys, available soon. Holly will also be teaching our Persuasive Online Copywriting seminar on January 14th in sunny Orlando, Florida, where she'll show men and women alike how to improve their online copy and branding.]

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Comments (4)

  1. Right on, Holly. Terrific post. Sad to say that during this primary season, all candidates are going for the lowest common denominator. If I hear the word “change” one more time, I’m going to go postal. My fervent prayer is that once we get down to two candidates, their teams will start offering some real substance and will start talking the language of real people – and that includes non-married females.

  2. This is really terrific, Holly. I am pretty cynical when it comes to the election. I mean – being president is a crazy job. Who in his or her right mind would want it? That said, I think we have some interesting candidates this time around and I hope they are paying attention — and learning not to lump women into just one group. That goes for Hillary, too. Just for the record, she isn’t MY favorite.

  3. Interesting op-ed at today from Gloria Steinem on some of these issues.

  4. Good article. awesome

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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